Archive for category Italian

Ma’s Pizza Macaroni

Pizza Pasta-1This is a really pretty simple, yet delicious pasta dish. We always called it “Pizza Macaroni” because that’s what our mother and grandmother called it, and they called it that because the spices used in its creation are the spices we use in pizza. There is no better pasta for this than Rigatoni, although Ziti is a good alternative if need be.

The recipe here calls for 2 pounds of pasta. This is a great dish for a crowd. It’s easy to adjust the quantities to meet your needs. And besides, it’s even better heated over.

The first thing will be to mix the seasonings together. The rest, as they say, is a breeze.

Ingredients

For Seasoning

4 tbsp granulated garlic

2 tbsp dried basil

1 tbsp granulated onion powder

2 tbsp dried oregano

2 tbsp dried rosemary

4 tsp fennel seed (roughly crushed with mortar and pestle)

2 tbsp thyme

1 tbsp Sicilian sea salt

1 tbsp coarse ground black pepper

For the Pasta

2 lbs Rigatoni

2 14.5-oz cans diced tomatoes (I use the garlic, olive oil seasoned)

12 RIPE plum tomatoes, sliced

Olive oil

4 cups three cheese blend (Romano, Parmesan, Asiago)

Reggiano Parmesan (for serving)

Crushed red pepper (for serving)

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350º.

While you’re mixing your spices bring a large pan of water to boil. Just before you add the pasta, salt the water. Don’t be shy about this. (If you add the salt at the beginning, it will take longer to boil.) Add your pasta to the boiling water. Return to the boil, and allow it to cook for about 9 minutes. The pasta should be al dente. Drain.

Pour both cans of diced tomatoes into the bottom of a large pan. Add half of the pasta to the pan (do not mix with the tomatoes on the bottom). Then add a layer of sliced tomatoes, the spice (to you taste; I’m heavy on the spice),  and a liberal dose of the three cheese blend. Sprinkle this layer with olive oil.

Add the second layer of pasta and repeat this process.

Don’t be shy with any of the ingredients, and definitely do not be shy with the olive oil.

Place the pan in the preheated oven and bake, UNCOVERED, for 30-35 minutes.

Serve with freshly ground Reggiano Parmesan and crushed red pepper.

Notes: Do not worry if some of the pieces are a bit crispy. This is part of the plan. These are actually delicious.

 

 

 

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White Clam Sauce

Linguine with White Clam SauceThere’s nothing like a good white clam sauce to go with your linguine (or any other kind of pasta you might choose. My favorite food store actually carries shucked fresh clams, so I generally buy  a tub of these for this recipe. However, if yours doesn’t, you can buy baby clams in a can. They work just fine. However, that’s not quite enough for me. I also buy a couple of cans of chopped clams as well. The more the merrier.

This recipe is for 1 lb. of pasta. It calls for a cup of clam juice or chicken stock. The clam juice will make the sauce stronger, while the chicken stock will make it a bit more mellow and buttery flavored. The choice is yours, or you can even use half and half if you’d like.

Ingredients

1 can (or tub) of whole baby clams

2 cans of chopped clams

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp. red pepper flakes

1.5 tsp. dried thyme

1 cup clam juice (or chicken stock)

1 cup dry white wine

1 lemon, zested

1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

Coarse ground black pepper and coarse salt

Italian bread (for mopping up extra sauce; optional)

Shaved Parmesan cheese (for serving)

1 lb. pasta, slightly undercooked

Directions

In a large, deep skillet add the olive oil and garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes until the oil becomes fragrant and the garlic begins to brown. Add the thyme and white wine. Cook for a few minutes until the concoction is slightly reduced. Add the clam juice or chicken stock (or a combination of the two). Allow it to simmer for a minute.

Stir in your clams and your lemon zest. Drain your pasta and add it to the skillet. Toss with the sauce for 2-3 minutes until it becomes al denté. Add the chives, pepper and salt to taste. Toss it a couple of times and you’re good to go!

It goes without saying that you should top this with some shaved Parmesan cheese!

 

 

 

 

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Summer Veggie Pasta Sauce

raw-zucchiniI spent my childhood eating traditional tomato-based pasta sauce. When I finally moved out of my family home and started to enjoy cooking, I decided I wanted to explore a bigger variety of sauces for my pasta. This sauce is especially nice in the summer, using zucchini, pancetta, and peas. Combine these delicious vegetables with butter, dry white wine and parmesan cheese, and it’s a real feast.

 

Ingredients

1 lb. cooked pasta

4 garlic cloves, chopped

4 oz. pancetta

1 cup zucchini, chopped

1 cup frozen sweet peas, thawed

1/4 cup + 1 tbsp. olive oil

5 tbsp. unsalted butter

1 tsp. crushed red pepper

1 tbsp. dried thyme

1 tsp. dried basil

Salt & pepper to taste

1/2 cup dry white wine (Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio)

Juice of one lemon

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese plus more for serving (I like to use the grated in the sauce and the shaved for serving)

Directions

The first order of business is to bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the pasta, cook until al denté (most of the time this runs from 7-10 minutes after the rolling boil has started). Then drain and set aside. While this process is going on, you can work on your sauce.

Add the chopped pancetta to a large sauté pan and cook over medium heat for about 5-7 minutes. Then add the chopped zucchini, and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently until it begins to soften. Add the thawed peas at the very end of this process and sauté for about 3 additional minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In the same pan, heat the 1/4 cup olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper, and sauté for 1-2 minutes until it turns golden and becomes fragrant. Then add the white wine, lemon juice, butter, thyme and basil. Cook for another two minutes or until the butter is completely melted.

Return the vegetables to the pan with the sauce and sauté for an additional minute or two. Then, add the pasta and toss with the Parmesan cheese to heat through.

This is a good time to give it a taste test for saltiness (the pancetta is salted and the cheese will also add a bit of saltiness to the dish). Add salt and pepper to taste.

You are ready to enjoy!

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Frannie’s Anise Cookies

anisecookie2This is my mother’s anise cookie recipe. Of course, because she never wrote anything down, I had to actually sit down and make sense of this thing. I’m posting this now because it’s the Christmas season, and this is a great treat to have in the house on Christmas morning. These are awesome with a nice cup of hot coffee.

I use anise oil in this recipe, not anise extract. They are much more authentic when you use oil and, because the oil has a very strong flavor, you use less than you would extract. It is not always easy to find anise oil. You may have to order it online, or find a local Italian shop. Luckily, I have one close to home.

I prefer my anise cookies without icing, but I realize I’m in the minority here. I’ve included the icing recipe. By the way, this makes a shitload of cookies, but they have great staying power.

Ingredients

6 cups of all-purpose flour

3 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 lb butter, softened

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

1 cup milk

1/2 tsp anise oil

Directions

Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Cream together the softened butter, sugar, anise oil. Then, add the eggs one at a time, mixing in between.

Once you’ve creamed the wet ingredients, add the flour and milk. Start with flour and end with flour, adding a little at a time.

It’s important to wrap the dough and chill it overnight before actually making the cookies.

When you’re ready to bake the cookies, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Here’s the important part. I make the “dropped” cookies, like in the photo. I also form the dough into anise rings, and I don’t mean small rings. Roll a long log of dough, and form into a circle. Slightly press it down. You can cut these into wedges. I like to make these because these are the ones I leave without frosting. Do not ask me for the logic here. That’s just the way my mother did it.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes, or until they are slightly brown on the top. Once the cookies have cooled, apply the icing and the decorations (see icing directions below).

Anise Icing

Ingredients

2 cups confectioners sugar

10 tbsp milk

1/4 tsp anise oil

Multicolored nonpareils

Directions

Place the confectioners sugar in a bowl. Add the anise oil. Then add the milk a little at a time, stirring in between additions. You should be able to apply the icing with a spoon. It should not be thick. If you think you need to add a little more milk, do not hesitate to do so.

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Eggplant Roll-ups Italiano

Eggplant roll-upsI remember when I was a kid, the thought of eating eggplant grossed me out. Man, was I DUMB. I can assure you that, once I was older and on my own, doing my own cooking and experimenting with flavors, things changed dramatically on this front.

Like stuffed mushrooms, there is almost nothing you can’t do with eggplant. However, I am starting off with this particular recipe because I made this just this past weekend for an event at my house. People simply could not get enough of these.

Ingredients

3 medium-large eggplants

1 medium Vidalia onion, minced

1 cup flavored breadcrumbs

8 oz prosciutto, sliced thin, cut in to very thin strips

3 tbsp pine nuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

6 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

4 oz thick-shredded Mozarella cheese

1 tsp fresh chopped thyme

1 tsp fresh chopped sage

1 tsp fresh chopped rosemary

1 tsp crushed red pepper

6-8 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp minced garlic

3 tbsp coarse salt

Sea salt and fresh-ground black pepper

Several fresh parsley leaves (for garnishing)

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Do not peel the eggplant! Cut it lengthwise into 1/4″ slices. Salt with the 3 tbsp coarse ground salt and place it in a colander to drain for about 30 minutes. Then, wash them well with cold water and pat dry with paper towels.

To prepare the pine nuts, prepare them by chopping coarsely. Toss with 1 tbsp olive oil, sea salt and fresh-ground black pepper. Place on a baking sheet and toast for about 5-7 minutes at 350 degrees.

Add 3 tbsp of olive oil to a large skilled and sauté the onions for about 10 minutes (until wilted). Add the breadcrumbs and stir continuously until they are browned. This will take about another 10 minutes.

Place the mixture in a large bowl with the toasted, chopped pine nuts, the proscuitto, herbs, garlic, crushed red pepper, Parmesan and Mozarella cheeses. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Brush both sides of the eggplant with the remaining olive oil and place them on a oiled baking sheet. Bake on the top shelf of an oven until lightly golden on both sides for about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove them from the oven and pile them on top of each other to steam for about 5 minutes. This will make them easy to roll.

Divide the filling evenly among the eggplant slices. Place the filling on the wide end of the eggplant and roll them up. Place them on an oiled baking sheet. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Bake the rolled eggplant appetizers for about 10 to 15 minutes until golden. Remove them from the oven and place them on a serving platter. Garnish with fresh parsley leaves. These are delicious right out of the oven, or after they have cooled for about ten minutes.

Cook’s Note: These can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated. When you’re ready to bake the final product, remove them from the refrigerator and bring them to room temperature before placing them on an oiled baking sheet.

 

 

 

 

 

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